Writing of Nichiren Shonin Doctrine 2: pp. 114-115

Kaimoku-shō or Liberation From Blindness: pp. 125-126

Writings of Nichiren Daishonin I: 287

Now we come to the conclusion of the Kaimoku-shō. Over the course of this writing Nichiren has reviewed all the reasons why he believes that the Lotus Sūtra alone allows all people to sow the seed of buddhahood and why he believes that it is necessary to refute all those teachings that would cause people to neglect or reject it. He has also addressed the reasons why he and his followers have to face many hardships if they are to uphold the Lotus Sūtra in the Latter Age of the Dharma. Nichiren concludes by reminding the reader that in chapter 11 of the Lotus Sūtra Śakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Tathāgata, and the buddhas throughout the universe all came together “for the purpose of making sure that the Lotus Sūtra would spread forever.” (Hori 2002, p. 113) He says of them that “their compassion seems greater than that of parents who see their only child faced with great suffering.” (Ibid, p. 113). Nichiren compares his own efforts to uphold the sūtra and refute those who would negate it to this great parental compassion of the buddhas saying, “I, Nichiren, am like a compassionate parent of everyone in Japan…” (Ibid, p. 114) In a later letter, Nichiren even said of himself that for the people of Japan he was a parent, teacher, and lord because of his efforts as the Buddha’s messenger: “Though I am a fool, I have declared myself to be a messenger of the Buddha and a practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra so that peace and tranquility may be established in Japan. … I am the father and mother of the people in Japan, their lord and their eminent teacher.” (Hori 2010, p. 166) As the Buddha’s messenger, Nichiren felt that he was sharing in the virtues of the Buddha as parent, teacher, and sovereign to those he was trying to correct and lead to the right path. In Kaimoku-shō, we see the thought process that Nichiren went through to come to his conviction that he was doing the right thing for the sake of the people of Japan and ultimately all beings.

Nichiren reminds the reader of the hardships faced by those who taught the Lotus Sūtra in the past, including Śakyamuni Buddha and the past T’ien-t’ai patriarchs. He states, “However, the masters had nothing to be ashamed of because they were abused for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra. Praise by the ignorant should be regarded as most dishonorable.” (Ibid, p. 114) Nichiren is saying that neither should he or his followers feel that they are on the wrong path simply because they are being persecuted by those who are foolishly rejecting the Lotus Sūtra. In fact, such persecution is only to be expected.

Nichiren then reviews the great sacrifices made by Śākyamuni Buddha and other great teachers of Buddhism in the past. They are, he says, examples of those who were spreading the Dharma in the most appropriate manner according to the situations they faced. Likewise Nichiren is sure that the hard course he has undertaken is also the correct one and therefore he has no regrets. In fact he feels assured regarding the rewards and happiness he will reap in the future. He concludes the Kaimoku-shō saying: “Keep in mind that Buddhism must be spread according to the times. My exile is merely a trifle in this present life, which is not lamentable at all. Instead, I feel it is a great joy as I am sure I will be rewarded with great happiness in my future lives.” (Ibid, pp. 114-115) In other words, Nichiren was not looking for worldly acclamation, comforts, or status. He was looking forward to ultimately attaining buddhahood for the sake of all beings.

Many people today, I think, are very casual about being either nominally religious, or vaguely spiritual, or openly disdainful of religious teachings and spiritual practice. Those who do investigate and take up Buddhism and Buddhist practice all too often are satisfied with the small rewards of worldly benefits like peace of mind gained through silent sitting practices, or perhaps good fortune in in their relationships or careers because they believe Buddhism can give them some kind of metaphysical control over their lives through ritual practices. I would not deny that sitting meditation or chanting can bring about peace of mind or help people gain the insight to refrain from bad and instead make good causes to help them make the most of life in a worldly sense. Even Śākyamuni Buddha gave discourses to lay followers to help them live wisely and thereby enjoy relatively happy lives in a worldly sense. However, what Nichiren is inviting us to do in Kaimoku-shō is to reflect more deeply about religious teachings including Buddhism and what they mean in terms of how we view life and our own role. Are we content to simply accept that this is the only life and that after death there is nothing at all? Or do we believe there may be some heavenly realm to hope for and that a virtuous life can lead us to it? Or do we wish to seek buddhahood – a life of selfless compassion that transcends small-minded concerns about personal happiness in this or some other lifetime? If we are really willing to engage the deepest teachings of Buddhism and try to realize and actualize them, what are we willing to put on the line? How much of ourselves are we willing to give? Are we only looking for protection and benefits? Or do we have the compassion and courage to give more and more of ourselves for the sake of all beings according to whatever the situation may demand? I cannot imagine that everyone will come to the same conclusions as Nichiren did, but I do think that if the Kaimoku-shō can inspire us to at least reflect on these questions than it will have been well worth taking the time to read and ponder its message.

Sources

Gosho Translation Committee, editor-translator. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. Tokyo: Soka Gakkai, 1999.

Hori, Kyotsu, comp. Writings of Nichiren Shonin: Doctrine Volume 2. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, 2002.

________________. Writings of Nichiren Shonin: Followers Volume 6. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Overseas Propagation Promotion Association, 2010.

Murano, Senchu, trans. Kaimokusho or Liberation from Blindness. Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2000.

_____________. Kaimokusho or Liberation from Blindness. Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2000.